Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I've been talking a lot about doing things to get less possessed food in our home. I'm really excited about this! I have been searching for things that we can make here at home like taco seasoning, cream of 'whatever' soup, ketchup, bread, granola bars etc. I'm slowly going to be rotating these things into our house - I don't want to take on too much too fast and the cost of ingredients can add up. I've really been doing a lot of homemade bread and I'm slowly getting the hang of it - any tips would be helpful! Part of my problem I think was using expired yeast, but it's all I had on hand this month. LUCKILY my hubby loves a good dense bread :) My attempt at pie crust was a success at least! I'll be making a homemade chicken pot pie this month for one night of dinner, and I'll be attempting homemade granola bars this month too.
Another thing I've decided to do it to make homemade cleaning supplies. Not only is it WAY cheaper, but way better for the home and the people in it. Store bought cleaners are very harsh and very dangerous if not properly stored when children are around. My husband is especially excited about this - he wants to be as natural as possible with the cleaners.
I'm also going to be making homemade laundry detergent! The website I found says you get 577 loads for $6.00 which is REALLY good! It's liquid (you can do dry instead if you want, but I like the liquid) and it supposedly cleans really well. I'm picky about detergent, so we will see.
In my kitchen, I am running out of storage when we go shopping all at once. My cupboards get REALLY full and I try to organize, but stuff still gets hidden. SO, with part of our tax return, we went to IKEA and got some really awesome shelves. We don't have room for them in the kitchen, so we put them in the guest bedroom, but they are going to be used to store excess food.
I know it may seem really weird to some people, but THIS; being a stay at home mom, is my dream job. I LOVE DOING THIS! I find myself being very excited about how I can help our family out. I get fulfillment cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, and especially with watching our son! I hope you all are able to find your dream job too :) (And I hope I can keep doing this!)
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Menu planning is going GREAT so far! It's only been a week, but I actually LOVE it. I'm serious. It seemed daunting at first but it really is wonderful to take all the guess work out of what we're eating each day. I used to cook based on what my husband or I were in the mood for, but now I find myself being in the mood for what we're making that day - we actually look forward to it! It takes some time figuring out what the plan will be, but I've made a list of all the meals I can think of (and I add to it as I find new ones) and then try to mix it up as much as possible while adding in the ones my hubby really loves or requests. When I first started the Menu, I just planned the main part, not the sides or veggies, but now I'm changing that and writing down exactly what we will eat. For example: Stuffed Chicken with craisins and baked green beans (this is one of our favorite meals and really easy!).
Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night we go to the chiropractor right at 5 pm. These nights require meals that I can cook in the crock pot or that don't take long to put together because by the time we get home we're usually pretty hungry! I've made a list of the meals that work well for this and they are reserved for these days. Things like Pot roast, BBQ chicken, Soups, Grilled chicken, etc are all nice meals for these nights.
You may also be wondering how we are doing with what we spend each month! You aren't? Well...I will tell you anyways! When I keep track, it works out that our month starts on the 15th. That's when I go shopping so the menu starts then and goes til the 15th of the next month. The month obviously isn't over yet, but I've been keeping track of every purchase since February 1st just to get an idea of what we spend and how much of it is necessary.
You should be proud of me! I put my credit card in the freezer!! I put it in a bowl and filled the bowl with water and it is no longer usable until I chip all that ice away! (I saw this in a movie years ago and thought it was silly but it REALLY IS A GOOD IDEA!) Damon keeps the other copy in his wallet for emergencies, but he doesn't go out shopping (for food and household items) like I do. He doesn't get tempted like I do :) By just having the check card it really makes me think; DO WE REALLY NEED/HAVE MONEY FOR THIS!? Usually, the answer is a resounding NO!
How my grocery list works...Each day I look at my Menu and get the required food out to thaw. If I use the last of an item (example; bag of frozen mixed veggies) I put it on my grocery list. This does not mean I will buy it next month, it just lets me know that we are out and I need to get more. I technically make TWO lists each month. One is everything we don't have and the next is things from that list that we are going to use on the new month's menu.
Make sense so far?
I am kind of OCD and I categorize my lists. Meat, veggies, fruit, sides, grains, dairy, beans, seasonings, sauces/condiments and extras are BOLD so I can find them easier while I'm shopping and then underneath are the items that correspond to them.
Here's an example of what part of my list may look like:
Au Gratin Potatoes
Most of these items are in the same area of the grocery store so as I get each item I scratch it out. This makes it easy to see what I'm still in need of.
I have 3 different color highlighters that I use (I know--geeky, right?)
Yellow signifies things that can be frozen - this helps me to know amounts I can buy. If it can be frozen I can buy more of it without it spoiling before we use it.
BBQ Chicken in the Crock Pot:
-Chicken breasts (frozen is fine!) I have 6 in there right now because Damon likes these leftovers for work.
-BBQ Sauce - I use half of a large container of sweet baby rays - you can't really go wrong here.
-1/4 Brown Sugar
-1/4 Apple Cider Vinegar
-Crushed Red Pepper Flakes to taste
Mix BBQ, Brown Sugar, Vinegar and Red Pepper in bowl. Layer bottom of crock pot with chicken. Pour sauce over top of chicken. Cook on low 4-6 hours or until chicken is tender.
We eat the chicken breasts whole but you could easily shred the chicken and put it back in the sauce for 15 more minutes to make pulled chicken sandwiches.
We eat ours with Cheesy Broccoli Rice A Roni and then a veggie. I'm not kidding, it's so good you'll never cook it another way.
What's the other recipe, you ask?
It's pie crust! I got this recipe off of Pinterest last week because my dad wanted a fresh strawberry pie for his birthday! I could have easily gone and bought a pie crust, but I've been talking about trying stuff from scratch and why not try this? I've never made a homemade crust before, but this one seemed easy enough and it was! It just took a little bit of ahead of time planning because it has to sit in the freezer for a bit before you bake it.
Here it is:
Homemade Pie Crust for Sweet or Savory pies:
-1 1/2 c all purpose flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 vegetable shortening (I used great value brand crisco)
-1/4 butter (next time I make this I may try all butter - not sure what difference it would make)
-4-5 TBSP Ice Water (I actually ended up using 6 but I've read this could change every time you make it. Add little at a time and stop adding once it starts holding together)
Butter a 9" pie plate and set aside.
In a large bowl mix together salt and Flour
Cut in the butter and shortening with a pie cutter (I used 2 forks) until it looks like a coarse meal.
Slowly add in ice water (actually use ice in the water) and mix with a wooden spoon until a ball is formed.
Put dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap and gently roll out to size you need.
Transfer to pie plate.
Freeze for AT LEAST 30 minutes - or as long as overnight.
This recipe only makes ONE piece of crust so if you need a top, you should double it.
You can either bake it empty (make fork prints in it so that it doesn't bubble and so that it cooks evenly) or fill it with filling and then cook it.
Cook it at 425 until lightly browned.
I tried this recipe twice, once without freezing it. It was flakier when I froze it which I liked better, so I really recommend freezing it.
Also, the second time I tried it, I added a tsp of sugar to the dough and I liked that too.
This crust is good for savory or sweet pies - and everyone who ate it Sunday really liked it.
I hope you're not all totally bored by my posts and I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday :)
Friday, February 15, 2013
You may ask "How can you shop only once a month!? What about produce!?" Well, I make a monthly menu and the things like Fajitas that have fresh peppers in them get cooked at the beginning of the month and other things that can be frozen get cooked at the end of the month. Make sense? Now, I've been buying once a month and freezing stuff for a while now but this is the first month I've tried a menu and specifically shopped to feed us for the month. Things like onions, bread, milk, butter, frozen veggies, flour tortillas, meat, cheese, all gets frozen until we want to eat it.
When I got home I had to split the ground beef into smaller bags (it was 5 lbs but I put it into 6 bags...we usually don't need a whole pound of meat). I also put tortillas into separate bags, 8 tortillas to a bag and then froze them. THEN I cut up all the onions until I was in tears and put those in a bag to freeze as well. My friend Liz gave me this idea -and it's genius! I have many meals that require one onion but I rarely have them on hand because they go bad. This does not work well for if you're sauteing onions though - that is better left to fresh ones so those meals are made early in the month. Other things like pot roast can use the frozen ones!
Now, this is the first time I've done a monthly menu and it may seem a little daunting but I'm actually pretty excited to do it. I have a few meals on it that are freezable (i.e. lasagna, enchiladas, chili, pizza [we buy pre made pizza crusts with sauce and freeze that and then just add the cheese. Cheaper than frozen pizzas and WAY better], etc) so while Damon is working tomorrow I'm going to be cooking. I'm going to make these meals ahead of time and freeze them so if there is a night when I'm sick or have no energy to cook, I can just pull them out and bake them! Then I'll just trade the meal I had originally planned for the night when I'd had the frozen meal. Easy Peasy :) I'll have one day of a lot of work and then I'll just be prepared.
check back with me in a few weeks, I hope I'm still as happy!
OK on another not budgeting note, Liam is 3 1/2 months old! He's getting so big and he is so smart! Being a wife and mom is so fulfilling! I've never been so happy.
I am so blessed!
Monday, February 4, 2013
Damon and I have had some tight times lately since Liam has arrived. We knew it would be hard financially once Liam was born, but I'm a worrier and I feel like that's all I do lately! Since I'm not working, it has been a day to day, paycheck to paycheck sort of situation. It seems like things keep happening to set us back a step and we haven't been able to save anything in a while. You know the saying, "When it rains, it pours." Seems like that's our life right now!
Finances are one of the biggest stressers in a marriage and it's something I've always worried about (even though the Bible says to trust...[Prov 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..] and [Jer 29:11 "I know the plans I have for you says the Lord.."] It's an every day battle for me to give it up to Him). I don't want my marriage to suffer because of it so I'm doing what I can to save every penny we can.
I'm looking for a nanny job so that I can bring Liam too, but it's been slow going. (I had something all lined up but after a week she decided to drop out of school so I lost that opportunity. Bummer.)
Thankfully, with the help of family, our baby purchases were kept to a minimum! YAY! We really saved money by accepting what people gave us at our shower and by finding everything else at thrift stores/sales. Before Liam was here I worked up a list of what we would need and the prices for them (Target & Walmart) and it added up to about $1,400. We didn't have that much to spend and I started getting scared (of course)! WELL, I needn't have worried because I didn't get a single thing I didn't ask for off of our registry (we received probably 70% of the list!).
We also were given boxes and boxes of baby clothes! Liam is 3 months old now and to this day I have spent a total of $12 on clothing him! (I had to get summer clothes for when we are in Florida in March.) For my birthday and Christmas I asked for needed things like diapers, wipes, baby monitor, etc. We were able to stock up on diapers up to size 2 with gift cards. Things you want just don't take precedence anymore when you have a baby and tight finances!
Another thing that threw us off track with saving was Liam wasn't breast feeding so I had to pump and then I wasn't producing enough milk so I had to supplement with formula which is EXPENSIVE! The blessing in that is we realized that he was intolerant to my milk and his colic went away on formula. (see earlier post Colic)
This is where I hope people don't judge; Because our income is so low, and since I didn't have health insurance when I became pregnant, we qualified for Badger Care and WIC. I know a lot of people don't appreciate people who are on this, and they think that everyone using Government help are slackers, but we really are trying and do work hard. Because we have Badger Care, our hospital bills were completely paid for. This is such a blessing because if I didn't qualify, I would have tried a home birth to save money. As a result, I would have needed an emergency ride to the hospital because Liam was delivered by emergency c-section. (see earlier post Liam Anthony Petras) Without help, we would be in debt up to our eyeballs. I'm so thankful that those who need it have help. Our family realizes what a gift that is and we do not take it for granted.
Even with help, things are very tight. SO instead of sitting on my butt and worrying about everything, I've decided to do something about it! Since I haven't been working, I've been doing all I can to try to help us save money and to spend wisely. Damon works about 26 hours a week but his job isn't offering any more hours right now. My job as his help-meet is to do what I can to stretch what we are earning.
I've done a little research and as a result have decided a few things. Here's my list of ideas:
Our shopping day is the 15th of every month since that's the day we get our Foodshare, so our menu month starts then.
I've created a meal plan going from February 15-March 15. We will be on a family vacation from March 8-17. Our family is responsible for one meal while we are down there - I did not make a list for that. I also have not made a list for snacks on the road but we will be bringing all our food instead of purchasing from fast food and gas stations. (we are driving straight through-24ish hours)
here is the menu I created:
-I am going to keep track (starting Feb 15) with how often we go through things like toothpaste, dog and cat food, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, etc so that we can budget for those things every month.
-I will also keep track of gas and how often we fill up/how many gallons we use so that we can budget that as well.
Stay posted for how things are going!
Monday, January 7, 2013
Tonight (well actually, I started it last night) we had homemade chicken soup! It's my sister Taylor's recipe, and it was SO YUMMY! And fairly easy.
A few weeks ago I made a chicken. After I made it, Damon picked all the extra chicken off of it that we didn't eat, and I froze that and the bones. I had used a recipe online that turned out really yummy and juicy.
Last night we got home from family night and I pulled out the bones and put them in the crock pot. I just covered the bones with cool water and let it sit on low all night long til about 1 this afternoon (must cook it at least 8 hours). I seasoned it last night, but this being my first time making soup I went on the safe side and didn't salt it enough (we found out when we sat down to eat it tonight) I put in lowry's, salt, pepper, oregano and basil.
By the time we woke up this morning the house smelled amazing! I let the broth cool for about an hour and then strained it into a pot using a thin kitchen towel (I didn't have cheesecloth). I chopped up fresh carrots and celery and put that and the leftover shredded chicken in the pot on the stove along with some barley.
Now, you could totally do it with noodles but we thought the barley might be a little better for us, and we both love it. Next time I will probably add more. I cooked that for about 2 hours til the veggies were soft and the barley was done. We both added a little salt to our bowls, but it was so delish and easy that I will definitely do it this way again!
Here you can see the broth after I strained it but before the veggies >
for 17-20 minutes.
The bread was delish but next time I may use less wheat flour.
I hope these recipes are helpful to all of you. I really urge you to try the soup. It's not as hard as it sounds and it's so good.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 tbsp melted butter
1/2 medium chopped onion
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half and half cream
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb fresh broccoli
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 cup carrot, chopped small
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute onion in butter. Set aside.
2. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and add the half and half.
3. add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes
4. add the broccoli, carrots, onions and chicken. cook over low heat 20-25 minutes.
5. add salt and pepper. Can be pureed in a blender but I didn't do that. Return to heat and add cheese. Stir in nutmeg.
Beer Bread Recipe
yields 1 loaf
3 cups bread flour (all purpose works too, I used half wheat half white)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
12 oz can or bottle of beer (Choose your favorite, I used MGD)
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter, melted.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pour in beer and mix until just incorporated. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. pour melted butter over top of dough.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the top is browned. Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before serving.
1 round or steak roast (I used venison, but beef or pork works too)
1 bag of baby carrots (or whatever cut your heart desires)
desired amount of potatoes chopped into small chunks (I didn't use them this time)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
one packet of dry onion soup mix
teriyaki sauce to taste
1-2 cups of any kind of wine (red port works best but I've also used whites-tonight I used white)
I don't really measure anything...you can't really go wrong. If you like more gravy, use more wine and maybe another can of soup.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I don't think I will have the time to fill you in on all that has gone on in our lives for the last 7 weeks, but I will try my hardest!
Liam is doing wonderfully! We had a rough start though. The poor little guy had TERRIBLE (and I mean awful) colic for the first 4 weeks of his tiny life. I felt so bad for him because he was just miserable! His tummy hurt all the time (he would arch his back) and he had terrible acid re-flux anytime he would lie on his back. Any time he was awake it seemed like he was crying/screaming. He was gaining weight fine, which when we were in the hospital was one of the doctor's worries, but he didn't sleep, He was wanting to eat to pacify his tummy, only to make it hurt more. Also, he never really got the hang of breast feeding. He would get so frustrated when he wasn't getting enough milk fast enough so he would pummel my breasts (ouch) and pull away. We finally decided not to fight him anymore and I started pumping all he ate. I was pumping at least 4 times a day (very time consuming, but worth it if it meant he was getting all the milk he needed) but it still wasn't enough food for him as he was getting bigger. I'd done some research online and found out there is this thing called Gripe Water (an all organic tonic used to help with colic in newborns). We went to Mother Nature's and got some and immediately he burped about 3 times when he hadn't even been eating. It seemed to help a little but he would still be really fussy or just spit the gripe water up. He really liked the flavor though, which made giving it to him easy.
At 4 weeks, I started supplementing in some formula (to my dismay! I had called my mom and just bawled because I felt like a failure that I wasn't producing what he needed) After the first day I noticed that when he had my milk, his tummy hurt and he would scream and scream and when he had formula he was calmer after feedings. I decided to go one whole day with just formula to see if there was a difference in behavior and he barely cried all that day! We thought maybe he was allergic to something I was eating and assumed maybe it was nuts, so I cut them out for days and tried again with breast milk to no avail. I don't know if he is allergic to something or just couldn't digest it well, but we switched him solely to formula and it's like having a different baby! He's happy; laughs even, and doesn't mind just sitting awake without someone consoling him. (actually, he just woke up and is happily cooing in his swing)
He loves his car seat and he loves the bath - he can be screaming full on and hear the tub running and he calms right down. His smile is absolutely beautiful with that one dimple and when he sticks his tongue out at me my heart just melts :) He's starting to mimic our faces, opening his mouth when we do, sticking out his tongue, smiling at us...it's so wonderful to watch him grow but it's all happening soooo fast! I feel like he's changed quite a bit since that little boy we brought home almost 7 weeks ago.
Well, baby is crying so I must go...will try to write again soon. Just know that if your baby is colicky, there may be a way to fix it instead of him being miserable all the time!